Threshold Festival is fast emerging as one of Liverpool’s most diverse and rewarding festival experiences and last weekend’s offering may have been its best yet.
Now in its seventh year, Threshold Festival has just delivered another vast and discombobulating array of music, art, theatre and dance to satiate the appetites of even the most ardent culture junkies.
Located in the epicentre of Liverpool’s creative hub, the Baltic Triangle is the perfect place for Threshold to showcase its innovative platform for emerging and established artists of all stages in their artistic development.
What was in store…
Unlike some other festivals, Threshold encourages people to take a chance on exploring and engaging with all facets of the experimental and alternative arts scenes. There are no household names, brit-pop reunion sets and certainly no one you’d know from a butter commercial. Their meticulous research and planning means that there is something that caters for every taste but it is down to the explorer to find their treasure.
This sentiment was aptly summed up in the festival organisers introduction speech. They were keen to set the tone for what was to be an exploratory weekend of artistic adventure: “Say yes and learn how to do it later”. This playful and enticing slogan was an encouraging invitation to all those about to embark on their Threshold experience.
Like an immersive Punchdrunk theatre production, the scale of the Threshold Festival means that everyone has their own Threshold festival story. There is a constant conflict between what you are watching and the fear of what you may be missing. However, despite the impossibility of festival omniscience, there is also the impossibility of dissatisfaction – each journey incorporates surprises and rewards in a variety of places in seemingly innumerable ways.
We can only write from our own particular Threshold experience and hope that some of our review intersects with your own journey. With that said, here some of the acts that caught our eye.
Acts that caught our attention…
Soul Inspired Events had the pleasure of curating the sun-soaked Unit 51 stage on Saturday afternoon and the performances applied a soothing balm to the excesses and effects of the Friday night excitement. Joy Oladokun stole the show with a soulful cover of the Beatles classic, ‘Blackbird’ – a flagrant and welcome attempt at pandering to her Liverpool audience. Performing with just an acoustic guitar, the Arizona native is gifted with an authentic and unique voice that is able convey unending landscapes of emotional complexity.
The Baltic Social played host to the line-up from Love Music Promotions and their first act, Idle Frets performed admirably in the face of some unusual circumstances. Never before (and I’m certain they hope), never again will they find themselves playing to a seated table of hen party revellers – the table had been booked before the festival and it was situated right in front of the stage. Both the band and the party had to adapt quickly. Luckily, Idle Frets have a plethora of upbeat indie rock anthems that took the party to a new level and the hens were soon on the dance floor, pulling shapes and swinging their hips.
Deltasonic’s new band God on my Right represent exactly what this festival is all about. They are an intriguing blend of sonic distortions and subtle and complex melodies that lead to moments of cacophonous ecstasy. Playing the evening set at District, this was an impressive and confident performance from a band from which big things are expected. For those in attendance, it was a rare pleasure to see an upcoming band with so much potential – it may very well be the set that you remember when all of the Threshold dust comes to settle.
Staying with District, a notable mention must also go to Elevant whose raw and raucous energy ensured a visceral and haunting forty five minutes. The uncompromising, spit-drenched invective spewing from frontman, Michael Edwards’ vocals was like mainlined adrenaline to the weariest of souls.
Over at Red Brick Vintage the fuel was kept alive by headliners RongoRongo. The Liverpool based six-piece just about squeezed onto the stage and their sound exploded around the venue. Imagine Echo & the Bunnymen and Joy Division catapulted together in musical fusion playing in a bric-a-brac performance space designed by David Lynch. Got it? Then you’re getting close to what RongoRongo were all about. Definitely ones to watch out for.
Seeing in the witching hour at Constellations were the geographically diffuse The Boston Shakers. Hailing from France and the US and now based in Liverpool, this worldly six-piece are an eclectic mix of rock, hip-hop and dance music. This was a genre that seemed to hit its peak with the likes of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park but The Boston Shakers have found new territory to be explored. Their sheer charisma and stage presence ensured that the audience was enraptured by what was a fiercely evocative set. The performance exuded confidence and belief and brought to mind the diffident and throwaway arrogance of Fun Loving Criminals.
For those that enjoy the garage band sound of Merseybeat’s heyday there were The Shipbuilders to enjoy. Born of a musical heritage that spawned The La’s, Cast and The Coral (to name a few) The Shipbuilders have beautifully crafted songs with accessible melodies that echo the musical eras of yore. Playing at the sun-blessed Unit 51, this was a perfect way to see in the Sunday evening.
Music wasn’t the only thing on offer…
As the sun came down on Threshold 2017 there was little time or inclination to nostalgia or reminiscences. The Mad Pride curation brought dance, poetry, music and carnival and was one of the high lights of the festival. Katumba Bloco’s primordial percussion and dance routine was an amazing spectacle – taking their performance from the Constellations stage to the outside garden. In the flame-lit evening there was a miasma of tribal dance and primal movement providing the perfect harmony between music and visual spectacle.
The scene was all set for festival headliner, Nils Bech who took over the Constellations stage on Sunday night. This is a festival tailor-made for the talents of this rare and unusual artist. Bech’s ethereal and emotionally bare vocal delivery is accompanied by classical arrangements blended with popular music. Think Nils Frahm crossed with Sigur Ros. After some difficulties with the sound engineers Bech settled down and delivered a pleasantly jarring performance. It was a strange experience where everything is seemingly at odds with each other and yet Bech is able to produce both beauty and harmony out of his raw materials.
It was getting late and the festival was winding down. Threshold 2017 has proved to be the best event of the year so far and it will be back bigger and stranger next year.